On this Cinco de Mayo who better to have as a guest on First Person Plural than workshop leader C.M. Mayo, author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire? Here she talks about a subject all writers need to know.
What an education the last year has been. My novel came out in hardcover last May 5th; shortly thereafter, I embarked on a cram-packed, coast-to-coast book tour, beginning with a launch at the Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, DC, then on to bookstores as diverse as Vroman's in Pasadena, CA; Bookworks in Albuquerque NM; and Book People in Austin TX. I also participated in several writers conferences and bookfairs, among them, the Texas Book Festival and the Virginia Festival of the Book. As a first-time novelist, I have have been fortunate indeed. That said, this is not my first book. My short story collection, Sky Over El Nido, was published in 1995; Miraculous Air, a travel memoir of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, was published in 2002, with a paperback edition in 2007; and an anthology, Mexico A Traveler's Literary Companion, came out in 2006. All of these were markedly different publishing experiences from this one, in part because my publisher, Unbridled Books, has a crackerjack marketing team, but also because publishing and communications themselves have changed.
One of the most surprising changes is the increasing importance of guest-blogs for book promotion--- and indeed, for any kind of literary promotion (perhaps you have a new literary journal, a new poem, a reading series?).
What's a guest-blog? What you're reading right here. It's a new literary genre--- closely related to, variously, the essay, the newspaper article, and whatnots on a bulletin board.
I felt very avant garde back in 2006, when I wrote my first guest-blogs for Wendi Kaufman's now, alas, apparently abandoned "Happy Booker" blog ("If I Had an iPod: Top 5 Mexican Music Selections ") and for the travel blog, World Hum ("The Speed of Rancho Santa Ines").
But over the past year, in promoting this new novel, Holy Smokes! I've written for:
Work-in-Progress ("How to Hang in There and Finish Your Novel");
beatrice.com ("What Connects You to the 1860s?");
A Writing Life ("Break the Block in 5 Minutes");
bookreporter.com ("A Book Club Meeting Menu");
Largehearted Boy (Playlist for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire);
Red Room ("C.M. Mayo Celebrates a Batch of Bookstores");
Potomac Review Blog ("Who Knew That Mexico Had a Half-American Prince?");
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Blog ("VCCA Memories");
I'm not unusual in this regard; many long-established writers are newly busy with guest-blogging--- and hosting guest-bloggers. On my own blog, Madam Mayo, I've hosted several other writers on their so-called "blogtours," among them, Sandra Beasley, Sandra Gulland, Joanna Smith Rakoff, Porter Shreve, Tim Wendel, and many more (view the full line-up of Madam Mayo's guest-bloggers here). Two more examples: Leslie Pietryk and Christina Baker Kline, both outstanding novelists, frequently host other writers on their blogs, Work-in-Progress and A Writing Life.
In sum, guest-blogging is at once a flourishing new literary genre and a powerful tool for literary promotion. While you probably won't get paid in cash to write a guest-blog, you will get paid, and sometimes very handsomely, in clicks. And if you don't think that counts, check out what facebook charges per click for advertising. (Speaking of which, please click here.)
Herewith 10 tips for coming up with your own guest blog posts:
1. Think about music: what songs might make a great soundtrack? Which songs might your characters would sing in the shower?
2. Think about food: any recipes from the book? Any recipes your characters might concoct?
3. Think about places: perhaps a certain city or mountain or lakeside resport in your book (or etc) is special. Photos, please!
4. Fantasize: which actors could play the parts in the movie? If your character were born in Virginia in 1960 instead of say, France in 1765, where would she work?
5. Tell a story about the book (e.g., how I found my agent; why I finally, with much gnashing of teeth, threw out chapter 1; the day I got the idea to write the book)
6. Thank those who helped you (Chekhov? Tolstoy? Teacher? Mom? Husband? Dog? Cat?)
7. Select an excerpt that might work.
8. Interview yourself (don't be shy!) Ask yourself three questions about the book.
9. Offer helpful hints (How to bake bread; how to write a novel in 12 easy steps (ha ha); how to keep your cat off the laptop; how to find time to write; how to find an agent.)
10. Generate lists, e.g., three poets who influenced my understanding of rain; 10 reasons to take a writing workshop; 7 cities I wish were in the novel but they didn't make the cut ; my favorite places to write in Washington DC; 5 books everyone in Bethesda should read right now; 4 yoga poses to make your creativity bloom...
P.S. More resources for writers here.
C.M. Mayo is the author of the novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books); Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions), and Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press), which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. Her many other awards include three Lowell Thomas Awards for travel writing, three Washington Writing Prizes, and numerous fellowships, among them, to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and Yaddo. Her work has appeared in many outstanding literary journals, among them, Chelsea, Creative Nonfiction, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Paris Review, and Tin House. An avid translator of contemporary Mexican literature, she is also founding editor of Tameme and editor of Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. For more about C.M. Mayo and her work, visit http://www.cmmayo.com/.